I would be remiss if I did not weigh in on the recent suicide of a bright, talented young man from Rutger’s whose world was destroyed by two classmates out for a laugh. To say that I am equally angered and heartbroken would be an understatement.
Over the past decade, I have worked with hundreds upon hundreds of parents whose children have suffered bullying, harassment, and worse at the hands of peers. Doesn’t matter the grade — 1st Grade, 5th Grade, 10th Grade, college. And while attention to these issues has increased, so too has the number of young people who feel frightened, overwhelmed, without support, and as though whatever they are facing can not be handled any longer.
We have instituted “anti-bullying” programs in schools, churches, and synagogues … started groups to address self-esteem issues for teens and special education issues in classrooms … provided platforms for college students to stand-up and speak about the issues most important to them. Yet this week, several children have ended their lives because clearly, things are not working.
We are losing our children. Bright, talented, sensitive, aware children. Children who were on the path to adulthood and who may have made contributions to our world that could have changed it for the better. We can shake our heads and collectively mourn or can say “enough” and start to do something about it.
Are we raising our children to respect themselves and others, to value differences, and to embrace all perspectives and experiences? Are we demonstrating a clear intolerance for anyone or anything different from ourselves? What messages are we giving, both verbally and by our actions? And what could be the consequences?
We are at a crossroads and we can either continue along the path we’ve been walking or can make a decision to change. I cannot imagine the grief that this student’s parents, family, and friends are experiencing. What I can imagine is that this young man deserved the respect that we all desire. And a precious life has been lost.